When I first backpacked the Pyrenees, 2009, this is where I felt the mountains unfold. I’d started at Lescun climbing a road, reaching a forest area, steep hillsides, then these open slopes. You can turn right along here and go down to Spain. It is however barren and featureless and seems to lead nowhere in particular.

For several years I had no memory of this place. It was the beginning of a long trek finishing at Gavarnie and as such, was lost and eclipsed in my imagination. I had a few photographs but couldn’t recollect the experience of being here.

It’s not dramatic at Col de Pau, relative to much of the Pyrenees. It does however have a unique and attractive quality I’ve seen nowhere else. It’s lush and green, rising above the even lusher Aspe valley. The limestone shapes are soft and the colours are pastel. There are areas of purple Lilly which is quite rare. I’ve seen that at only one other place, the Ossoue valley below Baysellance.

If you walk the High Level Route this path leads to refuge Arlet, where you then proceed to Candanchu in Spain. It feels like the mountains are unfolding but you realise it’s relatively tame. You buy supplies at Candanchu for several remote days. That’s when the wilderness feeling begins.

You think you’ve finished with the effort here because the obvious climbing is over. There’s more to come however and two times now I’ve not understood the distance. There’s a long way to go and that itself is tiring.

The weather deteriorated with cloud, rain, and a thunderstorm which thankfully remained in the distance. I was wet, cold, exhausted, and worried about reaching Arlet in time for dinner. I arrived there almost exactly at seven thirty when everyone was seated and waiting. The company and conversation was pleasant but for thirty minutes I had to remain quiet, resting and reviving myself with food and warmth.

 

Pyrenees Mountain Photography: Col de Pau Panorama

Friday May 1, 2015